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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Tories attack home seizure plans
A boarded up house
The Conservatives say properties will be seized under the new laws
The government has been accused of using the World Cup to "bury bad news" over measures to seize empty homes.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders allow councils to requisition properties which are unoccupied long-term.

The Tories say ministers sneaked out the announcement the day after England played Trinidad and Tobago in their World Cup group match.

But the government said the legislation, which will provide housing for the homeless, was passed in 2004.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman also denied that the powers, which are being granted to local authorities next month, would be used to seize homes inherited by relatives.

Details about the powers were published on Friday, the day after England's World Cup clash with Trinidad and Tobago.

But the DCLG said that was not a case of strategic publishing.

'Own goal'

Shadow housing and planning minister Michael Gove said: "Homeowners will be alarmed at John Prescott's parting gift of new state powers to confiscate people's homes for up to seven years, with little compensation for the owner.

"Given the controversy over Prescott's three homes, Labour's spin machine has scored an own goal by using the World Cup to bury their bad news.

"There is a case for action to put boarded-up and blighted properties back into use and councils need to reduce their empty housing stock.

"But these heavy-handed powers allow bureaucrats to seize private homes in perfect condition just because they have been empty for a short while.

"I fear this is a stealthy new form of inheritance tax by the Labour Government."

But the DCLG said that the powers would only be used where there was no intention of bringing the property back into use.

This would be decided by a tribunal, a spokesman added.

A spokesperson said: "These claims are complete nonsense.

"The powers are designed to address long-term empty homes that are neglected, abandoned and become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour.

"It is absolutely right that councils are able to take action to bring abandoned homes back into use when so many homes are need across the country."

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